One of the standard liberal memes on immigration is that everyone who is opposed to laxer immigration laws is a racist. Normally, this is just an undercurrent in elite media reportage, not so in this New York Times article which portrays helpless Senate Republicans beset by a racist mob:
The recipient was Senator Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida, who has been a leading advocate of the proposed legislation for changing the immigration system. His offices in Washington and across Florida have received thousands of angry messages in recent weeks, but nothing as alarming as that letter he received at his home.
“I’ll turn it over to Capitol police, and we’ll go from there,” said Mr. Martinez, who declined to elaborate on the nature of the threat.
On the eve of a crucial vote on the immigration bill, the Capitol Hill switchboard was deluged again Wednesday as thousands of citizens called their members of Congress — and, perhaps, someone else’s — to weigh in. Not since the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, several Senate aides said, have the lines been so jammed by a single issue.
Republicans who support the immigration bill are facing unusually intense opposition from conservative groups fighting it. This is among the first times, several of them said, that they have felt the full brunt of an advocacy machine built around conservative talk radio and cable television programs that have long buttressed Republican efforts to defeat Democrats and their policies.
While the majority of the telephone calls and faxes, letters and e-mail messages have been civil, aides to several senators said, the correspondence has taken a menacing tone in several cases.
That fig leaf is a little snug, isn't it?
Senator Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican who is undecided on the final immigration bill, said his office received a telephone call recently that “made a threat about knowing where I lived.” Mr. Burr passed it along to the authorities. “There were enough specifics to raise some alarm bells,” he said.
Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is one of the architects of the immigration overhaul, said he also had received threats in telephone calls and letters to his office. Mr. Graham said several other senators had told him privately that they also received similar messages.
“There’s racism in this debate,” Mr. Graham said. “Nobody likes to talk about it, but a very small percentage of people involved in this debate really have racial and bigoted remarks. The tone that we create around these debates, whether it be rhetoric in a union hall or rhetoric on talk radio, it can take people who are on the fence and push them over emotionally.”
And now, the obligatory talk radio fearmongering:
At the heart of the opposition rests conservative hosts on talk radio and cable television, which often are a muscular if untamed piece of the Republican message machine.
Several senators said Wednesday that they did not care to be identified speaking critically of the broadcasters, fearing the same conservative backlash that befell Senator Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, this month when he declared: “Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.”
Republican Senator Lindsay Graham gets in on the act, condemning amnesty opponents:
As Mr. Graham walked back to his office on Wednesday, he said he doubted that senators would be deterred by any threats. “I’m sure a lot of the people who have taken a high-profile position on this have been threatened, but what are you going to do?” he said. “You saw what happened to Senator Daschle.”
Mr. Graham was referring to Tom Daschle, the former Democratic majority leader from South Dakota, whose office received a mailing of anthrax in 2001. The case remains unsolved.
“One of the requirements of public service in modern America is dealing with a few voices that are full of hate,” Mr. Graham said. “And our discourse and the way we politic, the way we engage each other, brings that out.”